Talking Blues: Stop the nonsense

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It is the oldest trick in the book. When confronted with an unpalatable truth or challenged on a matter you would rather dodge, attack! Get angry! Distract! Deflect! And in most cases, it all ends there.

The problem is that to successfully pull this off requires skill. Jugglers who know their game avoid getting carried away. Any “anger” they exhibit is superficial.

Conjurers worth the name know that when performing this trick, anger is self-defeating. Because as Mark Twain put it, it is an acid that harms the vessel in which it is more than anything on which it is poured.

Losing his cool and getting angry is how and why the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Sosten Gwengwe, dismally failed to execute this trick when cornered with perhaps the only important question during Pre-Budget Consultations Meeting in Lilongwe.

The Mind of Youth Development Executive Director Joseph Pesh, contributing to the consultations, advised the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs to learn from the many expensive mistakes made by the Chakwera Administration.

He cited two i.e.

• the ignominious K750 million botched fertiliser deal contracted to a butcher, a butcher who has since done AWOL with a large chunk of this jackpot, and

• the sensitive memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by the minister in front of cameras with the dubious Belgium-based Bridgin Foundation.

Without missing a beat, a visibly fuming Gwengwe went on the attack, branded Pesh’s contribution as “nonsense”, and attempted to deny that no government official signed the grant arrangement with Bridgin.

As I have said, masters of the old trick use superficial anger to deflect or change while inwardly calculating and pondering their next move or speech. The moment emotions in the form of anger take control, what follows is chaos. And as Benjamin Franklin observed, whatever is begun in anger ends in shame. Put proverbially (14:29), one who is slow to anger has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered exalts foolishness.

Look here, Gwengwe signed the MoU with Bridgin Foundation on behalf of the Malawi Government during a ceremony held at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe on November 28 and witnessed by President Lazarus Chakwera.

If Gwengwe attended that ceremony and signed under duress, he should come out in the open and disown Bridgin. Otherwise, he will continue making us look even more foolish that we already are following his ministry’s gifting some crook in Germany our millions when several international trade instruments exist to safeguard importers’ money.

The minister’s proper response to Mr Joseph Pesh’s counsel should have been:

“Thank you for your contribution, Sir. The fertiliser from butchery foolishness will never happen again. As to the Bridgin Foundation – Malawi MoU, that nonsense is now water under the bridge.”

The whole conference and nation would have breathed easier henceforth, and I have no doubt Malawians would have been fired up to find innovative ways of attaining the minister’s stated objective of balancing the budget.

The only positive from the embarrassing episode is that from what I have gathered, Mr Pesh won’t be deterred by the minister’s hostile reaction. On the contrary, he will continue advocating for Malawians and holding our leaders accountable.

“There is a need for integrity at the Ministry of Finance. The country is losing a lot of money. Recently, the minister signed a $6.8 billion grant, but no one knows what has become of it.

“Are Malawians dosing too much? In the 2023/24 budget, we don’t want fertiliser to be bought from a butchery again!”

I couldn’t agree more! Honestly, I like this firebrand and should you chance upon him, relay my regards.

This, by the way, is not what I had planned to discuss today. Nonetheless, this is a perfect example of what I had in mind and a classic illustration of everything wrong with President Chakwera’s administration.

First, it is no longer disputed that the people running the government today are unfit to run anything intended to be a going concern. Running an entity or enterprise, or organisation intended to prosper requires vision. This lot we have is groping in the dark.

Secondly, despite their vision deficiency, those in control of our fate are very adamant. They neither ask for advice nor consult when embarking on projects or endeavours they know nothing about. Worse, they just proceed nonchalantly when they have blundered or lost us money. As if all is well. They have zero capacity to pause, ponder, draw lessons and move on wiser.

Thirdly, they seem to thrive in their bubble of ignorance. I mean, who in the world does not know that in international business, buyers can and do protect themselves with basic and well-known instruments like Letters of Credit?

Yet, here we are, duped by yet another probable semi-illiterate as if the homemade one currently on bail in the United Kingdom is not enough!

I could go on and on but let me stop.

My more profound concern, which gives me sleepless nights, is that there are still months ahead until the next general election. And whenever you sit and think this time we have hit rock bottom, these fellas find their way around that particular rock to sink us deeper into the abyss.

What a country! What a mess!

This, however, is half the story. The other half is that looking around, be it in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), tattered-like curtains United Democratic Front (UDF), jerky Alliance for Democracy (Aford) and the other parties currently hibernating in their owners’ briefcases; I see no one bankable.

You consider Mr X, and soon you remember what he did when he served in some top post elsewhere. You look at Ms Y, and you see traits of the same DNA carried by the Malawi Congress Party (MCP). You look at Option Z and you just want to start crying!

This should not be the case; it is incumbent upon us Malawians to change this.

Come to think of it, aren’t we God-fearing people? Remember the parable of the rich man with three servants? The one who went on a journey and left each servant a sum of money to care for in his absence? Who gave the first servant five, the second one two and the third one talent?

And upon return, he found that the first two had doubled the talents while the third servant had buried the one talent he had been entrusted with and returned just that one to his angry master?

When I look at you, I see the third servant. For Malawi’s sake, please stop that “nonsense” and begin the hard but overdue work of bringing sustainable change to Malawi.

Please, for the sake of the children, stop the nonsense.

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